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The habit of doing nothing!

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Last word for a while on the power of meditation.

This is not a single topic blog. But the last few days have brought such a wealth of marvellous stuff that I couldn’t resist this final, for the time being, post on the benefits of slowing down, of taking a break – meditation, in other words.

First, and I wish I could remember from whence it came, I found this essay by Bertrand Russell In Praise of Idleness It’s a wonderful piece of writing from one of the great masters of the art.  Take this extract from just the first paragraph, (and the photo insertion is from me!):

Bertrand Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970)

Bertrand Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970)

I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached. Everyone knows the story of the traveler in Naples who saw twelve beggars lying in the sun (it was before the days of Mussolini), and offered a lira to the laziest of them. Eleven of them jumped up to claim it, so he gave it to the twelfth. This traveler was on the right lines. But in countries which do not enjoy Mediterranean sunshine idleness is more difficult, and a great public propaganda will be required to inaugurate it. I hope that, after reading the following pages, the leaders of the YMCA will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Then from out of the Transition Network stables came this interview by Rob Hopkins with Sophy Banks on the Power of Not Doing Stuff.  Just going to pick out a couple of exchanges that really struck me.

Sophy, I’m sure you get asked the question lots of times, but how would you describe Inner Transition ? What’s Inner Transition for you?

I gave a talk about Inner Transition in Canada just recently, and someone said “what I want from the talk is, what’s the most succinct story? What’s the E=mc² of Inner Transition?” The way that I’m talking about that at the moment is to say the absolute core of Inner Transition is that in our groups, within ourselves, in our relationships, in what we’re doing in our communities, how can we be creating a culture that supports us to be in a state of feeling resourced, feeling empowered, feeling seen and appreciated? With the understanding that when we have those kind of external conditions, we find ourselves in a state where we’re the most open to new ideas, the most open to connection, the most able to build relationships with people who are different from us.

That’s the core of it, to understand that internally we can be in different inner states, we can be in a state where we feel stressed and closed and driven or whatever, or we can be in a state where we’re open and creative and learning and available. That’s one way of framing Inner Transition, how do we keep recreating that?

Part of it, I think, is when we’re all in that state of being open and creative and connected with each other and with ourselves, we make the best decisions. We’re able to take the longest and the widest view, we’re able to see the consequences of what we do, so there’s also something which has really been resonating for me. That’s not only the process we need for Transition, that’s the end-state we want to get to. Part of what’s not working in our culture is that lots of the people with a lot of power who are making really key decisions are in a state of constant stress and pressure and having to make very narrow decisions, decisions based on very narrow viewpoints.

oooo

One of the expressions you’ve been using increasingly over the last couple of years is “healthy human culture” and this idea that that’s ultimately the aim of Transition, to enable that and to create that. What does that mean? Can you define “healthy human culture”?

This is where my enquiry took me. I got really interested in seeing polarities and dualities – people have been doing that for centuries – about our culture and calling it dualistic. I came across Riane Eisler’s work. She talks about basically two kinds of human culture. One is based on partnership and one is based on domination. I got really interested in that and the question what if that’s true? It’s a big proposition.

If that’s true, what’s underneath that and what is it about what goes on inside us that we’re constructed, the way we’ve evolved, that causes that to be so, that there are these two stable states? I feel like I’ve been looking at lots of different territories, I’m really interested in trauma and how that affects us in the creation of the unconscious that comes through trauma.

This whole thing about how we create unintended consequences. The idea that anybody could have sat down and designed the consequences that we’re living with is inconceivable. However dysfunctional people were and however much they’re interested in wealth or power or anything, I just don’t believe that anybody intended it to be like this. How do we get this as a by-product of something that’s natural and…just who we are, who we’ve evolved to be.

So for me, the question around “healthy human culture” is one of the inner. What’s the inner state of a culture that creates partnership, learns to live within its resources, that’s oriented towards joyful, pleasurable existence, that has a belief about ourselves as humans that we’re trustworthy and generous and want good things for the future, good things for our children. What I see very very strongly: in a lot of the depth work that I’ve done, what I see is when you peel away a lot of the damage, what you find is a profound and I could say universal. In my experience (I haven’t worked with the psychopaths and the most damaged people) but that sense that if we’re healed and whole what we want is to love each other and do good in the world.

Then there’s another state we could be in, which comes back to your first question, where we feel under-resourced, disempowered, under attack. There’s not enough and I’m taught that other people are selfish, violent and greedy so I need to fight for what I can get. In order to have status I’ve got to have stuff, I’ve got to prove myself. With that goes a whole lot of very difficult feelings.

I’m very interested in that idea, that in unhealthy culture we have a whole lot of unmanageable feelings centred around shame and not being good enough that we then disown – I can’t deal with that in myself, I’ll put it on to you, I’ll find somebody else to have that experience and then I’ll watch it in them and feel OK about myself. It’s really interesting to look at cultures of domination and colonialism and capitalism and power-over as being driven by the need to not feel stuff myself, but grab enough power so that I can do it to somebody else.

The whole driver for those things is a psychological state of splitting and projection. When I bring that back to me and what culture I create in my relationships and my groups, you see it out in those big systems in the world but it’s also a very precise way of understanding and discerning what culture do I make in this room with these people, around splitting and projection or unity.

That’s quite a big answer! The short answer is “healthy human culture” is that one where we reel resourced, empowered, connected, appreciated and safe. Those seem to be the 5 things. If we have those, we are in that state of openness and availability and connection and learning and receptivity and then taking good action instead of action that creates a problem somewhere else in the system.

It really is a fascinating and thought-provoking interview.  Go and read it in full, or better still, find somewhere to sit and relax, close your eyes and listen to it.

Moving on.

There was an article in Nature about the BrainNeuroscience: Idle minds - Neuroscientists are trying to work out why the brain does so much when it seems to be doing nothing at all.

For volunteers, a brain-scanning experiment can be pretty demanding. Researchers generally ask participants to do something — solve mathematics problems, search a scene for faces or think about their favoured political leaders — while their brains are being imaged.

But over the past few years, some researchers have been adding a bit of down time to their study protocols. While subjects are still lying in the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners, the researchers ask them to try to empty their minds. The aim is to find out what happens when the brain simply idles. And the answer is: quite a lot.

Again, a very important read so do go across and read it in full.  Because, you will come to this:

Zen and the art of network maintenance

Raichle favours the idea that activity in the resting state helps the brain to stay organized. The connections between neurons are continually shifting as people age and learn, but humans maintain a sense of self throughout the upheaval. Spontaneous activity might play a part in maintaining that continuity. “Connections between neurons turn over in minutes, hours, days and weeks,” says Raichle. “The structure of the brain will be different tomorrow but we will still remember who we are.”

Or perhaps the activity is part of the reshaping process, tweaking connections while we idle. Several teams have reported changes in resting connectivity after language and memory tasks and motor learning. Chris Miall, a behavioural brain scientist at the University of Birmingham, UK, and his colleagues have shown that spontaneous activity at rest can be perturbed by what has just happened. The team scanned volunteers at rest, and then asked them to learn a task involving using a joystick to track a moving target. When the participants were scanned at rest again, the team could see the effects of motor learning in the resting networks. That study, and subsequent work along the same lines, suggests that “the brain is not only thinking about supper coming up, but it’s also processing the recent past and converting some of that into long-term memories”, says Miall. The network changes are specific to the tasks performed.

So, hopefully, anyone who has read this post and who would like to slow down, to practise the art of doing nothing, will be eager to learn how. Well, keep reading!

Yesterday, I referred to Leo Babauta’s website.  Thanks to Leo’s wonderful ‘uncopyright‘ offer, I am free to republish his ‘How To Meditate‘ guide.

How to Do It Daily

There are lots and lots of ways to meditate. But our concern is not to find a perfect form of meditation — it’s to form the daily habit of meditation. And so our method will be as simple as possible.

1. Commit to just 2 minutes a day. Start simply if you want the habit to stick. You can do it for 5 minutes if you feel good about it, but all you’re committing to is 2 minutes each day.

2. Pick a time and trigger. Not an exact time of day, but a general time, like morning when you wake up, or during your lunch hour. The trigger should be something you already do regularly, like drink your first cup of coffee, brush your teeth, have lunch, or arrive home from work.

3. Find a quiet spot. Sometimes early morning is best, before others in your house might be awake and making lots of noise. Others might find a spot in a park or on the beach or some other soothing setting. It really doesn’t matter where — as long as you can sit without being bothered for a few minutes. A few people walking by your park bench is fine.

4. Sit comfortably. Don’t fuss too much about how you sit, what you wear, what you sit on, etc. I personally like to sit on a pillow on the floor, with my back leaning against a wall, because I’m very inflexible. Others who can sit cross-legged comfortably might do that instead. Still others can sit on a chair or couch if sitting on the floor is uncomfortable. Zen practitioners often use a zafu, a round cushion filled with kapok or buckwheat. Don’t go out and buy one if you don’t already have one. Any cushion or pillow will do, and some people can sit on a bare floor comfortably.

5. Start with just 2 minutes. This is really important. Most people will think they can meditate for 15-30 minutes, and they can. But this is not a test of how strong you are at staying in meditation — we are trying to form a longer-lasting habit. And to do that, we want to start with just a two minutes. You’ll find it much easier to start this way, and forming a habit with a small start like this is a method much more likely to succeed. You can expand to 5-7 minutes if you can do it for 7 straight days, then 10 minutes if you can do it for 14 straight days, then 15 minutes if you can stick to it for 21 straight days, and 20 if you can do a full month.

6. Focus on your breath. As you breathe in, follow your breath in through your nostrils, then into your throat, then into your lungs and belly. Sit straight, keep your eyes open but looking at the ground and with a soft focus. If you want to close your eyes, that’s fine. As you breathe out, follow your breath out back into the world. If it helps, count … one breath in, two breath out, three breath in, four breath out … when you get to 10, start over. If you lose track, start over. If you find your mind wandering (and you will), just pay attention to your mind wandering, then bring it gently back to your breath. Repeat this process for the few minutes you meditate. You won’t be very good at it at first, most likely, but you’ll get better with practice.

And that’s it. It’s a very simple practice, but you want to do it for 2 minutes, every day, after the same trigger each day. Do this for a month and you’ll have a daily meditation habit.

Now to the close.

Beautifully rendered thanks to Terry Hershey.  For on his website there is this:

When I pause, I put myself in a new or different environment.
When I pause, I create spaces–or sanctuaries–in which renewal can be born.
When I pause, I allow my soul to savor, relish, value, honor, welcome, see, celebrate, wonder, and to experience grace.

Enough said!

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Unlocking the inner parts of our brain.

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The healing power of meditation and self-reflection.

Yesterday, I wrote about two seemingly disconnected events that appeared to resonate together.  One of those was a comment left by reader Patrice Ayme.

But that harmony didn’t stop with those two events.  Here’s how it continued to flow.

Patrice has a recently published post called Consciousness I.  To be honest, some of the concepts have been a bit of a struggle for me to understand.  However, at one point in that essay, Patrice wrote:

Meditation is a most precious, most human state of consciousness. Whereas sentience is shared with many animals on this planet, obviously, not so with the capacity for meditation. meditation allows to shut down most (over-) used neuronal circuitry, and engage more strategically important parts of the brain.

Action without meditation is as slavedom without wisdom.

That really struck a chord with me because, once again, the power of meditation has been brought into focus.  Regular readers of Learning from Dogs may recall that just six days ago, I wrote a piece called Maybe home is found in our quietness.  There were three references to meditation in that post that I will take the liberty of repeating today.

The first was:

A few weeks ago when meeting our local doctor for the first time since we moved to Oregon, I had grumbled about bouts of terrible short-term memory recall and more or less had shrugged my shoulders in resignation that there was nothing one could do: it was just part of getting older, I guessed!

“On the contrary”, responded Dr. Hurd, continuing, “There’s growing evidence that our information-crowded lives: cell phones; email; constant TV; constant news, is pumping too much for our brains to manage.”

Dr. Hurd continued, “Think about it!  Our brains have to process every single sensory stimulus.  The research is suggesting that our brains are being over-loaded and then the brain just dumps the excess data.  If that is the case, and the evidence is pointing in that direction, then try thirty minutes of meditation each day; give your brain a chance to rest.”

Then later on in that post came:

The second was a recent science programme on the BBC under the Horizon series.  The programme was called,The Truth About Personality.

…….

Within the programme came the astounding fact that even ten minutes a day meditation can help the brain achieve a more balanced personality (balance in terms of not being overly negative in one’s thoughts).

The last one was in a short talk by writer Pico Iyer  meditating on the meaning of home, the joy of traveling and the serenity of standing still.

Now come forward just three days to last Tuesday evening. Jean and I sat down and more or less randomly wondered if there was something of interest to watch on the website Top Documentary Films.  Just by chance, we came across a film by filmmaker Isabelle Raynauld with the title of Mystical Brain.

Here’s a tiny snippet from the film:

Filmmaker Isabelle Raynauld offers up scientific research that suggests that mystical ecstasy is a transformative experience.

It could contribute to people’s psychic and physical health, treat depression and speed up the healing process when combined with conventional medicine.

This documentary reveals the exploratory work of a team from the University of Montreal who seek to understand the states of grace experienced by mystics and those who meditate. In French with English subtitles.

However, as interesting as this snippet is, the power of the film is in the area of spirituality and the way that meditation can open up the brain to an incredible range of mystical experiences, as well as the impressive health benefits of slowing the mind.  Maybe, just maybe, the power of religious and spiritual experience is being understood, with some very surprising results.

So please watch the whole documentary on-line. The website of the Mind & Life Institute will also be of interest.

To underscore why the film should be watched, there is much about the nature of the theta rhythms in the brain.  The relevance of these?  Simply that when the brain is generating these regular slow oscillations the human condition is one of great peace.

Dhalia showing us humans how easy it is to meditate!

Dhalia showing us humans how easy it is to meditate!

Call it prayer, meditation, relaxation, building internal energy or life force, compassion, love, patience, generosity or forgiveness; what does it matter.  It’s what it is doing to you that matters!

So when you bury your face in the warm fur of your beautiful dog and both you and your dog appear to be transported to some beautiful, magical place you have entered that indestructible sense of well-being.

Actually, let me make one small correction. Both you and your dog have entered that indestructible sense of well-being.

Only one way to finish today’s post: I think, therefore I am!” René Descartes.

Bird Seed.

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Solutions to present times: A guest post.

John Hurlburt writing as ‘an old lamplighter‘ has been a regular contributor to Learning from Dogs.  Indeed, just last Friday in my rather introspective post, Maybe home is found in our quietness, I included John’s beautiful Evening Meditation.  The day before that post, John sent me the following (the picture below is my contribution to John’s essay!)  It’s a reflection on both the absurdity of modern times and the simplicity of the answers.

oooOOOOoo

Our interconnected world.

Our interconnected world.

Bird Seed!

In return for a local pet store patronage, today’s cost savings included free bird seed. Meanwhile, our economic system squanders our common wealth.

The agendas of rich and powerful people who don’t want anything to change are reflected by FAUX News. What we have on our hands is an absurd interpretation of reality, which is made up as they go along. Politics has become a game of “Can You Top This”; with no limits. There’s a question about our collective level of sanity.

Our shared crisis mounts as our demographic increases and our natural resources are depleted accordingly. The fact is that we’re beyond the carbon limits the atmosphere requires to maintain the inclusive well-being of life on earth. And we’re damaging the surface layer of the planet that sustains us all in the process.

The answers are simple and natural. Here are five quick examples and a conclusion of sorts.

1. Diesel fuels run the majority of the world’s heavy machinery. Switching from carbon-based diesel fuels to natural bio-fuels, as per the original design by Rudolf Diesel, would have a profound effect on carbon pollution as well as fostering green innovation and industry. No modification of any on-line diesel engines would be required. As a matter of fact, they’d probably run more efficiently.

Solution: Economic advantage of using bio-fuels.

2. Re-establishing human rights may be best accomplished through increased awareness of our fragile unity as a species. The openness, honesty and integrity of Creation lights the way each day and lends serenity to our reflections.

Solution: Accept that deliberate human war and related destruction of the earth is empty, has no future, and is contrary to the purpose of human life.

Incidentally, when we put a natural floor under the global economy we’ll save our collective bacon in the process. Transitioning military forces to support green economic development opportunities might be a possibility if we decide to take life seriously enough to make a real difference.

3. Re-establishing a realistic base for a global economy that’s swollen 25 times beyond any material planetary resource foundation may best be accomplished by transitioning to green industries that benefit our planet, nations, communities and the sanctity of life in general. A modification to our technically driven financial system is needed.

Solution: Isaac Asimov; “I Robot” (the laws of robotics)

4. Re-establishing common law with inclusive equality and justice may be best accomplished by an in-depth examination of personal beliefs values, motives and actions in terms of respect for whatever Higher Power we may believe there to Be, compassion for Creation and the realization that we’re all living in and on the same life boat.

Solution: Education, formation and transformation based upon the facts of reality that we know in our present state of development and the far greater Reality which transcends our being and our current understanding based upon reason alone.

For example, Einstein’s General and Special Theories of Relativity tell us that we are in the process of turning inside out without breaking. A phrase that comes to mind is “transrational reality”. When we step beyond “self” we see the world through new eyes.

5. Agreeing on an equitably interactive and enforceable world-wide corporate, government, labor, and service organization wage scale may best be accomplished by listening to the voices of economic reason which tell us that money is only a symbol.

Rationale: Everything fits together. Change is constant. Life needs to adapt to survive. In Unity there is strength. At our best, we care for the earth and each other.

Inclusive solution: Surrender to Reality. The global system is broken, Resources are limited. It’s time to wake up. It’s time to change. A sustainable and growing green economy benefits everyone on earth.

Bottom Line

Love lights the way
Faith is stronger than fear
Hope springs Eternal

an old lamplighter

oooOOOooo

Maybe home is found in our quietness.

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Our truths, our home, our serenity; all flow from stillness.

Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation.

Jean Arp (16 September 1886 – 7 June 1966)

As is often the way, a number of disparate items came together for today’s post in a way of lovely connectivity.

A few weeks ago when meeting our local doctor for the first time since we moved to Oregon, I had grumbled about bouts of terrible short-term memory recall and more or less had shrugged my shoulders in resignation that there was nothing one could do: it was just part of getting older, I guessed!

“On the contrary”, responded Dr. Hurd, continuing, “There’s growing evidence that our information-crowded lives: cell phones; email; constant TV; constant news, is pumping too much for our brains to manage.”

Dr. Hurd continued, “Think about it!  Our brains have to process every single sensory stimulus.  The research is suggesting that our brains are being over-loaded and then the brain just dumps the excess data.  If that is the case, and the evidence is pointing in that direction, then try thirty minutes of meditation each day; give your brain a chance to rest.”

So that was the first revelation.

The second was a recent science programme on the BBC under the Horizon series.  The programme was called, The Truth About Personality.

Michael Mosley's brain being measured.

Michael Mosley’s brain being measured.

Michael Mosley explores the latest science about how our personalities are created – and whether they can be changed.

Despite appearances, Mosley is a pessimist who constantly frets about the future. He wants to worry less and become more of an optimist.

He tries out two techniques to change this aspect of his personality – with surprising results.

And he travels to the frontiers of genetics and neuroscience to find out about the forces that shape all our personalities.

Related Links

Within the programme came the astounding fact that even ten minutes a day meditation can help the brain achieve a more balanced personality (balance in terms of not being overly negative in one’s thoughts).

The third revelation came from Jean and me watching a TED Talk last night.  Just 14 minutes long, please watch it – you will be transformed!

Published on Jul 17, 2013

More and more people worldwide are living in countries not considered their own. Writer Pico Iyer — who himself has three or four “origins” — meditates on the meaning of home, the joy of traveling and the serenity of standing still.

Then, just three days ago, John Hurlburt, a long-time supporter and regular contributor to Learning from Dogs, emailed me his reflection on meditation.  John quickly gave permission for it to be published here.

oooOOOooo

evening

The stillness of evening.

Evening Meditation

Our world is increasingly spiritually, morally, mentally, physically and economically bankrupt. Many people would like to change the world one way or another. Most don’t really know why. Some folks simply don’t care. The idea is to leave life a bit better than we found it when we were born.

The fact is we’re all intrinsically sacred in a universe we didn’t create. We tend to prioritize illusion and delusion above reality. Playing God is a precursor of evil.  A supreme faith in Money is self contradictory and ultimately fatal. Arrogance compounds the problem.

We connect in unified awareness through serene meditation. We experience harmony within an emerging celestial symphony. Answers flow from the inside out as we surrender to the eternal energy flow.

Be still and know…

an old lamplighter

oooOOOooo

Finally, after having a real struggle to find the place, both psychologically and physically, where I could start my own relationship with meditation, on Wednesday afternoon, when walking the quarter-mile up to our mail-box, it struck me as obvious.

Embraced by nature.

Embraced by nature.

This quiet place on our creek where the water trickles down from an old flood irrigation dam.  Somewhere to sit under the shade of a tree, somewhere to be still, somewhere as perfect a home as anyone could ever find.

Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity.

Voltaire.

Written by Paul Handover

July 19, 2013 at 00:00

A reminder of very ancient times.

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The positives and negatives of dogs being dogs.

It is our routine at home here in Oregon to let the kitchen group of dogs out first (Lily, Ruby, Casey & Paloma, with Sweeny tagging along) while Jean puts together our small breakfast.  The time is around 6am to 6:30am and both Jean and I are usually wearing dressing gowns.  Once this first group has been outside, then I let the ‘bedroom’ group out (Pharaoh, Cleo, Hazel and Dhalia).

Such as I did this morning, unusually a day starting dull with overcast cloud.

Suddenly, I heard the most awful squealing of an animal in pain over in the dense wooded area to the South-West of the property.

The wooded area in question.

The wooded area in question.

In plastic slippers and dressing-gown only, I dashed into the woods and to my horror saw that Cleo, Hazel and Dhalia had cornered a young deer, and at least Hazel was nipping at a rear leg.

A not uncommon sight at home.

A not uncommon sight at home.

I screamed at the dogs, to no avail.  They took not the slightest notice of me.

Then the young deer wriggled free and fled into the trees.  The dogs recornered it and plunged in again.  The deer broke free again, and so it went on.  Eventually, after some ten minutes of the most dreadful hollering and chasing by me, the young deer jumped a fence and ran off with its mother who had been shadowing the terrible event.  I prayed that it wasn’t badly hurt.

Gracious, I was so angry with the dogs!  What disgusting behaviour towards this young, beautiful creature.

When I was back in the house trying to regain my breath, still so angry at the dogs, a thought came to my mind.  Tens of thousands of years ago, this behaviour of the dogs was held in great esteem.

Early man evolved from a tribal hunter-gatherer existence to the pastoral life of farming about 10,000 years ago.  If the DNA evidence shows, as it does, that the dog evolved from the wolf as a separate species around 100,000 years ago, then dogs were part of the life of hunter-gatherer man for something of the order of 90,000 years, possibly a couple of decades longer!

In fairness, the present lineage of dogs was domesticated from grey wolves only about 15,000 years ago. Despite fossil remains of domesticated dogs having been found in Siberia and Belgium from about 33,000 years ago, none of those lineages survived the Last Glacial Maximum. No fossil specimens prior to 33,000 years ago have indicated that they are clearly from the morphologically domesticated dog.

Even if, and it’s a very big ‘if’, the relationship between man and dog is only about 15,000 years old, one can only speculate how each species came to know the other, in every imaginable way.

Actually, we can go beyond speculation because in a study published by the PLOS ONE scientific journal in March 2013, Dr. Robert Losey, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta and the lead author, explained that:

Dog burials appear to be more common in areas where diets were rich in aquatic foods because these same areas also appear to have had the densest human populations and the most cemeteries,

If the practice of burying dogs was solely related to their importance in procuring terrestrial game, we would expect to see them in the Early Holocene (around 9,000 years ago), when human subsistence practices were focused on these animals. Further, we would expect to see them in later periods in areas where fish were never really major components of the diet and deer were the primary focus, but they are rare or absent in these regions.

The PLOS ONE paper went on to report that researchers found that most of the dog burials occurred during the Early Neolithic period, some 7,000-8,000 years ago, and that “dogs were only buried when human hunter-gatherers were also being buried.

So back to the morning’s drama between the dogs and the young deer.

The efficiency of the way the dogs cornered the deer was breath-taking.  Had I not been coming at them in such a state of anger and agitation, and especially if I was one of a group of say, 2 or 3 humans, the odds are that the deer could have been grabbed and dispatched.  In other words, those three dogs had demonstrated that 20,000, 40,000, 80,000 or more years ago, they were critically useful at helping early hunter-gatherer man feed himself.

Back to Dr. Losey’s view, “I think the hunter-gatherers here saw some of their dogs as being nearly the same as themselves, even at a spiritual level. At this time, dogs were the only animals living closely with humans, and they were likely known at an individual level, far more so than any other animal people encountered. People came to know them as unique, special individuals.

Does make sense, doesn’t it.

P1130569

“Oh look! We could have turkey for dinner tonight!”

Life’s changes.

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Sometimes life has a way of offering a new path.

*** If you are not into introspection, then look away and come back tomorrow! ;-) ***

Regular readers will know that quite frequently I write under a topic heading that could be regarded as within the classification of key subjects of our time.  You know, such subjects as big government, big money, big power, and even climate change! ;-)

Why has this been the case?

Well, because, a) most of my life I’ve tried to stay abreast of ‘current affairs’ and, b) within the broad label of ‘integrity’ it’s relevant to this blog.  The sub-heading of the blog is after all: “Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.”  (Yes, I do know ‘integrous’ isn’t grammatically accurate! – Any suggestions for an alternative word?)

Stay with that while I go elsewhere.

Yesterday (Tuesday) a number of events ended up having a profound effect on me. On the face of it, utterly disconnected events.

The first was a post from Alex Jones on his blog The Liberated Way.  The only common ground between Alex and me is that we both know Colchester in Essex, England.  Alex because he lives there today, me because I used to have a business in Colchester in previous times.  Other than that just a couple of bloggers separated by thousands of miles.

Anyway, the post was this one: Cycle of Life. Alex wrote:

Life seems like a cycle of birth, living and death.

I have the honour of following awesome bloggers on WordPress.  I learn inspirational teachings from their intimate life experiences that they share with their readers.  The cycle, for in my belief everything moves in cycles, of birth, life and death is if we are attentive to living life something we will often be reminded of in our interactions with others and nature.

Then later, adding:

Lijiun is a Buddhist who shares daily experiences from their own life with a Buddhist theme running through their blog.  Lijiun has a cat called Little White who often acts as a teacher to them about the meaning of life and a reminder of Buddhist teachings.  Little White two weeks ago brought home a stray kitten, which it adopted as like a surrogate parent.  Yesterday Adik the kitten died, and a beautiful blog post by Lijiun in memory of Adik reminds us life is impermanent.

Almost absent-mindedly, I clicked on the link about the death of Adik and …… was shaken to my core; shaken by the power of the truth.  I want to give you more than a link to the post – want to share some of the beautiful words.

IN MEMORY OF “ADIK”…

In memory of our little Kitten, “adik”….

In memory of our little Kitten, “adik”….

Every moment in life is full of changes, this is a law of nature.

However, sometimes we might assume that everything unchanged.

“Adik”- Our stray kitten, so far, she was not showing a sign of sickness. Yesterday, in the evening, I discovered she was laid down under my neighbor car, not moving at all and look severe sick. We checked through her little body, no physical injuries and we tried our best to feed her water and Cat food. She refuse to take.

We need to send her to Veterinarian immediately as her condition was critical, however during Sunday, especially evening time. Most of the Veterinarian clinic is closed. We did our best to check through internet, we were able to locate one of the Vet and we rushed over.

In the journey, we played Mantra Chanting to our little kitten, We reached to the vet clinic, “Adik” was alive but in agony…. she was struggling for life. The only thing we can help was to keep chanting mantra, our only aspiration are for her to relieve from suffering, not to reborn in 3 lower realm, able to follow spiritual practice and attain enlightenment in the coming life.

“Adik” passed away in peace even before the Veterinarian came to treat her.

Then Lijiun went on to write that “This incident gave me a very clear insight on “death”  and offered more of that insight: (These are extracts: Please read the full post.)

1. Impermanence Of life

Nothing is permanence , we need to live at now, not past or future.

When Death approached, no bargain time at all whether you are rich or poor, you are ready or not, you are healthy or sick, …

Do all good deeds when you are still alive, Follow spiritual path whenever you can, don’t give excuses that “I’ve plenty of time, I’ll do it when I am “FREE”? When You are Free, you might not able to do it…

2. Young or old…

Some of us, might assume that people died in old age. As such, we’ve a long journey in life.

Is It true???

I learned from “Adik” Sudden death – that death will happen in any age.

“Coffin is not meant for elderly people….” This is so profound.

Spend time with your family members, be filial piety to your parent, Pursuit your dream, Don’t wait until later day…. We are unsure we can survive until later day!

3. Breathing in & Out

Treasure every breath in & breath out…

Life is just in between Breath in & out.

Be Mindfulness in life!

4. What Can you bring???

What can you bring after death, “NOTHING”.

No matter, how much wealth, how much money, how many cars, how many bungalow, how high is your position, how lovely is your family… you can’t bring anything..

Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of life?”, “What do you want?”

5. Alone..

You, yourself need to face the death moment…

Nobody can help you… Don’t avoid the topic and say, “It’ll not happen to me so soon”..

Just get ready.

6. Love

“Adik” passed away at 8:30 pm.. according to my mom, Little White, Our lovely cat was “Meowing” loudly at home. He can sense that “Adik” was not longer around. Animals are just like us, they are loving. Please treat all beings well, no differentiation on form.

We are so touched that “Adik” came home before her death and spend her last moment with us.

Before we sent “Adik” to Vet, She “Meow” loudly to my mom as a good-bye & gratitude to my mom for taking care of her. It’s so touching!

Thank you to “Adik” for celebrating 16 happy day with us and leave behind a great lesson to us.

May “Adik” be relieved from suffering, not reborn in 3 lower realm and find the lasting happiness!

May all beings be Well and Happy!

Then also yesterday, I was chatting to someone who lives close to us; he and his partner-lady have become good friends.  He was bemoaning the corruption of so much of his fine country and went on to say that the only way that he could function was to turn away from the big stuff, have no TV, ignore the constant news of this and that, the endless trials and tribulations in this world of ours.  I listened in silence, only to find later that the words must have left a mark on me.

My dear friend, Dan Gomez, has known me for over 40 years.  He was my Best Man at my wedding to Jean in November, 2010.  He and I have been exchanging emails about the truth of the role of man in the raising of the temperature of the planet.  I sent Dan the link to the death of Adik, the kitten.  It seemed so much more important than the emails we had been exchanging about the ‘big’ subjects in life.

Then something happened overnight (Tuesday/Wednesday) because not long after I got to my PC this morning, I sent this email to Dan.

Dear Dan,

Yesterday was one of those days, one of those rare days I should have said, where my view of life was radically changed.

Partly because I’m still adjusting to Corinne’s death [my sister], partly because of something I read elsewhere, and other stuff best left for a phone call.

In essence, despite my anger at what is going on around us (big government, big money, big power, even climate change!) I want to retreat from these areas and focus on what is most valuable to me.

Aspects of my life such as love, friendship with ‘old’ travelers, the natural world, being in the present, community, our animals (especially Pharaoh who is over 10), my writings, my book, our small world here at 4000 Hugo; you get my drift!

I’m 70 in November, 2014. Corinne died in her 80th year. Time goes so quickly. No, life goes so quickly. Jean and I met 6 years ago this next December. I must turn away from the things over which I have little or no control and embrace the present. Just what dogs do so well. Live in the present.

It’s all about endeavouring to come to the end of one’s life hearing those immortal words of Edith Piaf, “Je regret rien.”

So dear reader of Learning from Dogs, if you are still ‘on frequency’ – Well done! You have stuck with my very long ramble!

Back to what gets written about in this place.  If integrity means anything, it means I’m going to drop all the ‘big’ topics and focus entirely on what man can learn, nay, has to learn from dogs.  Indeed, will close by republishing the full ‘home’ page below.

Pharaoh – just being a dog!

Dogs live in the present – they just are!  Dogs make the best of each moment uncluttered by the sorts of complex fears and feelings that we humans have. They don’t judge, they simply take the world around them at face value.  Yet they have been part of man’s world for an unimaginable time, at least 30,000 years.  That makes the domesticated dog the longest animal companion to man, by far!

As man’s companion, protector and helper, history suggests that dogs were critically important in man achieving success as a hunter-gatherer.  Dogs ‘teaching’ man to be so successful a hunter enabled evolution, some 20,000 years later, to farming,  thence the long journey to modern man.  But in the last, say 100 years, that farming spirit has become corrupted to the point where we see the planet’s plant and mineral resources as infinite.  Mankind is close to the edge of extinction, literally and spiritually.

Dogs know better, much better!  Time again for man to learn from dogs!

Welcome to Learning from Dogs

Dogs and Man: an eternity of a relationship

with 7 comments

New research shows the beauty of the bond between dog and man.

I was doing some research for another writing project and came across this on the NBC News website:

What prehistoric dog burials tell us about owners

By Jennifer Viegas

An analysis of ancient dog burials finds that the typical prehistoric dog owner ate a lot of seafood, had spiritual beliefs, and wore jewelry that sometimes wound up on the dog.

The study, published in PLoS ONE, is one of the first to directly test if there was a clear relationship between the practice of dog burial and human behaviors. The answer is yes.

Photo - Robert Losey. The ancient dog was buried in a resting position. It was part of a study to directly test if there was a clear relationship between the practice of dog burial and human behaviors. The answer is yes.

Photo – Robert Losey.
The ancient dog was buried in a resting position. It was part of a study to directly test if there was a clear relationship between the practice of dog burial and human behaviors. The answer is yes.

That PLOS ONE study, published March 2013, found that “dog domestication predates the beginning of agriculture about 10,000 years ago.”

Dr. Losey and his dog, Guiness

Dr. Robert Losey, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta and the lead author, explained that,

Dog burials appear to be more common in areas where diets were rich in aquatic foods because these same areas also appear to have had the densest human populations and the most cemeteries,

If the practice of burying dogs was solely related to their importance in procuring terrestrial game, we would expect to see them in the Early Holocene (around 9,000 years ago), when human subsistence practices were focused on these animals.

Robert Losey continued.

Further, we would expect to see them in later periods in areas where fish were never really major components of the diet and deer were the primary focus, but they are rare or absent in these regions.

The PLOS ONE paper went on to report that researchers found that most of the dog burials occurred during the Early Neolithic period, some 7,000-8,000 years ago, and that “dogs were only buried when human hunter-gatherers were also being buried.”  Dr. Losey went on to say,

I think the hunter-gatherers here saw some of their dogs as being nearly the same as themselves, even at a spiritual level. At this time, dogs were the only animals living closely with humans, and they were likely known at an individual level, far more so than any other animal people encountered. People came to know them as unique, special individuals.

Those interested in the research paper may find it here, and read the Abstract:

Ancient DNA Analysis Affirms the Canid from Altai as a Primitive Dog

Abstract

The origin of domestic dogs remains controversial, with genetic data indicating a separation between modern dogs and wolves in the Late Pleistocene. However, only a few dog-like fossils are found prior to the Last Glacial Maximum, and it is widely accepted that the dog domestication predates the beginning of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. In order to evaluate the genetic relationship of one of the oldest dogs, we have isolated ancient DNA from the recently described putative 33,000-year old Pleistocene dog from Altai and analysed 413 nucleotides of the mitochondrial control region. Our analyses reveal that the unique haplotype of the Altai dog is more closely related to modern dogs and prehistoric New World canids than it is to contemporary wolves. Further genetic analyses of ancient canids may reveal a more exact date and centre of domestication.

DNA testing indicates that the evolutionary split between dogs and wolves was around 100,000 years ago or more. The value of dogs to early human hunter-gatherers led to them quickly becoming ubiquitous across world cultures.

Thus it is in the order of 90,000 years, possibly a couple of decades longer, from the point where a bond was made between early man and the wolf to the era when man evolved from a tribal hunter-gatherer existence to farming the resources of the planet. Thousands and thousands of years of dogs being the greatest animal relationship we humans have ever experienced.

Back to that NBC news item:

Erik Axelsson, a researcher at Uppsala University’s Science for Life Laboratory, has also studied prehistoric dogs. He too found that human and dog diets, burial practices and more often paralleled each other, revealing how close the dog-human bond has been for thousands of years.

Axelsson said, “Dogs and humans share the same environment, we eat similar food and we get similar diseases.

Based on the number of burials, we also often spend eternity together too.

Eons of time.

A hundred, thousand years of knowing man, and it shows in the eyes.

Every dog should have its cat!

with 6 comments

Another gem from John Hurlburt.

dogcat1

oooo

dogcat2

oooo

dogcat3

oooo

dogcat4

oooo

dogcat5

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dogcat6

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dogcat7

oooo

dogcat8

oooo

dogcat9

oooo

It came to me that every time I lose a dog,
they take a piece of my heart with them….
And every new dog who comes into my life,
gifts me with a piece of their heart.
If I live long enough, all the components of
my heart will be dog …
and maybe
I will become as generous and loving as they are.

Unknown author.

Written by Paul Handover

June 24, 2013 at 00:00

Be in grace.

with 20 comments

In memory of my elder sister, Corinne Grace Joiner, nee Handover, who died peacefully in her sleep at 7am yesterday, UK time.

The following video was sent to me a few days ago by John Hurlburt before me hearing the sad news of my sister’s graceful release from extreme dementia.  The video seemed a most fitting tribute to Corinne who was a loving friend to me for well over 60 years.

Published on May 5, 2012

Video by Scott Mckinley Productions, Produced for Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for Ad campaign. Licensed music by Kenny G.. This short video won Best of Category at the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula Montana! The majority was shot on location in Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and The National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Summer solstice

with 9 comments

As old as time itself!

holding-the-sun

The point at which the sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator is the Summer Solstice, well it is for the Northern Hemisphere. This occurs annually on June 20 or June 21, depending on your time zone.

Here in Southern Oregon, the moment of the Summer Solstice will be 22:04 Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) on the evening of June 20th and at 05:04 GMT/UTC on June 21 2013 in the United Kingdom.

A quick web ‘look-up’ finds that the word solstice is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the Sun appears to stop at this time, albeit momentarily.

At the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge in Southern England, the prehistoric monument that took Neolithic builders an estimated 1,500 years to erect, for many years the Druids have celebrated the Solstice and, undoubtedly, will be doing so again.

AMESBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 21:  A man stands on top of Stonehenge as the sun rises over Salisbury Plain on June 21, 2006 in Amesbury, England.  Police estimated around 17,000 people travelled to watch the sun rise ove the 5,000 year old stone circle to start the longest day of the year. The all-night party to celebrate the Summer Solstice passed with only four arrests being made. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

AMESBURY, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 21: A man stands on top of Stonehenge as the sun rises over Salisbury Plain on June 21, 2006 in Amesbury, England. Police estimated around 17,000 people travelled to watch the sun rise over the 5,000 year old stone circle to start the longest day of the year. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Written by Paul Handover

June 20, 2013 at 00:00

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